Browns Mailbag

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Browns Mailbag: What's in store for some of the Browns' Day 3 rookies?

Three questions for this sunny Friday in Northeast Ohio. Let's do it.

We all know that newly acquired Austin Hooper is a versatile tight end that will help improve our offense. We also know that David Njoku is still an athletic freak that is expected to be a big part of our attack. What can we expect from the rookie tight end Harrison Bryant? Will he see the field and contribute? — Brooks P., Cincinnati

If there were ever an offense where a third tight end could make a significant impact, this is the one. Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt indicated as much Wednesday while answering a question about Njoku. Clearly, the Browns will be counting on much more than Hooper and Njoku from this position group.

"There will be times we are out there with three tight end sets – that is part of this system – and to have (Njoku) with the ability he has both athletically to play in line or get him out in space and get some matchup issues with safeties and linebackers covering him, I am excited to see what he has to offer," Van Pelt said.

"One thing about our offense is we intend to be multiple in personnel groupings. One week, it could be a three tight end day, and the next week, it could be a three wide receiver day. We are going to try to give ourselves the best chance to beat you each week, and whatever personnel group that calls for, we feel like we have good people in those positions and depth at those positions, too."

That's where a player like Bryant comes in. He can clearly be a weapon in the passing game, as he showed throughout his career at Florida Atlantic, and the Browns are optimistic about his ability to contribute. For Bryant, though, the focus will center on being an all-around tight end — blocking very much included — because that will be a requisite to getting on the field.

If he can prove that — and the Browns believe he can — opportunities should abound.

"I really think there is a way to get all these guys on the field – sometimes at the same time and sometimes not," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. "I just think there is versatility in that position. I think being able to move guys around the formation is a very big deal. I think keeping teams in base defense can be helpful at times. Not every game but sometimes you go into a game and you like to keep them in their base scheme with three linebackers on the field and keep them out of their nickel sub-packages, which can a lot of times bring some exotic pressures. There is some thought to that. 

"We think this kid is a pretty good football player. He was available at a spot that we thought it was worth taking him. It is our job – my job and our coaches job – to make it work with the guys we have. The more we have in the room, the merrier."

Check out photos of the stadiums the Browns will play in next season

Baker Mayfield does not need to carry this team. He just needs to take care of the football. This offense will be explosive on the ground and the defense will be much improved. You agree, Andrew? — Rob M., Charleston, West Virginia

I do agree! 

The key part from this assumption, to me, is the defense making significant improvements. The biggest issue for Cleveland defensively last season was the injuries, which started to really kick in by Week 3, when the entire starting secondary was sidelined. By the time that area of the field got healthy, the defensive line started taking hits, the biggest of which being Myles Garrett's season-ending suspension. The issues on the defensive line made life tougher on the linebackers and secondary, and the result was a bit of a snowball effect that made the final part of the season tough to watch on that side of the ball.

The Browns made a number of additions on defense through free agency, giving the team a number of depth options in all areas of the field. The biggest question marks are at linebacker, where the team will look to replace veterans Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey. There's optimism, though, that young players such as Mack Wilson and Sione Takitaki, are up to the task. If that group comes together, and the running game delivers like many expect it will, I'd say you're absolutely correct.

Will Nick Harris be placed at backup center behind JC Tretter or will Bill Callahan let him compete for starting RG? — Brent H., Worthington

The early evidence is Harris will line up at the position he played during his final three seasons at Washington. Shortly after the Browns selected Harris in the fifth round, EVP of Football Operations and GM Andrew Berry said Harris' skillset is "a little bit more focused at center" and called him a perfect scheme fit for what the Browns plan to do on offense because of his athleticism and movement skills. When Callahan met with reporters last month, he did not mention Harris when discussing the team's opening at right guard. That doesn't mean Harris won't compete at the position, a spot he played during his freshman season at Washington. It's simply too early to say. We'll likely have a much better idea when the players finally get back on the field for training camp.

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